Cycling is good for health, promotes energy conservation and helps protect the environment. Stepping on the pedal in a cool breeze and the sun shining down enhances the body's cardiopulmonary functions as well as increases muscle power without causing a strain on joints. Cycling reduces car traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, and the consumption of fuel, as well as cleaning the air we breathe.
The Chosun Ilbo is launching its second campaign to promote the use of bicycles. The first campaign, held in 1993, featured various articles highlighting the benefits of cycling, with the newspaper then going on to spearhead a nationwide campaign. The Seoul metropolitan government also joined in, leading to the creation of a 40 km bicycle path along the banks of the Han River. In 1995, the National Assembly passed a law to promote the use of bicycles, with a total of 9,170 km of bicycle roads being created nationwide over the next 13 years. However, currently 88 percent of all bicycle roads are not exclusively for two-wheelers, but merely lines drawn along sidewalks to delineate separate paths. Bicycles only account for 1.2 percent of street traffic, with very few designated parking spaces available. This ratio is tiny in comparison to those of Germany (10 percent), Japan (14 percent) and the Netherlands (27 percent).
Since last year, the government has been promoting bicycle usage as part of its "Green New Deal" policy. As part of the project, the government intends to spend W1.25 trillion (US$1=W1,265) by 2018 on the creation of 3,114 km of bicycle paths. These paths will include routes along the coast and the banks of the nation's four major rivers. While the creation of bicycle paths along the nation's coastline is commendable, what's needed even more is a network of bike paths within cities as well as paths connecting cities to one another.
Most importantly, we need more bicycle paths and parking spaces that are interconnected with public transport routes, such as subways and buses. In Tokyo, Japan, there is enough space around subway and railroad stations to accommodate 770,000 bicycles. In Korea, there are only 5,700 public transport stops with spaces for bicycles, with a total capacity for only 160,000 bicycles. The government needs to create an environment that encourages all members of society to use bicycles as a means of transportation.